International Volunteer Day

December 5 is International Volunteer Day, a great chance for us to thank the over 2,200 people who volunteer their time, effort and expertise for Coastguard. From all four corners of New Zealand, our volunteers make sure boaties across the country stay safe on the water. 

Matt - Coastguard Hawkes Bay

Kato - Coastguard Taranaki

Ranui - Coastguard Riverton

Lisa - Coastguard Papakura


Matt Harvey, Coastguard Hawkes Bay 

Introduced to the sea by his sailor grandfather and later heading out on his own in the family boat,Matt Harvey has been a part of Coastguard Hawkes Bay since a family member suggested he join the team back in 2010. 

With a roughly equal number of fishermen and recreational boaties headed out on the water, the Coastguard Hawkes Bay team responds to around 40 incidents in an average year. With such a large area to cover, all the way up to East Cape and three-quarters of the way down to Wellington, the team often spends hours on the water getting to a boatie. And it’s all open sea: “once you get out of the channel, you are out on the ocean.” 

Having made his way up to skipper and into training roles, Matt is enjoying his place with Coastguard. “There is plenty of opportunity at Coastguard,” Matt says. “You can do so much, you can go quite far with Coastguard.” 

A builder by trade, Matt is given a lot of flexibility by his employer – often he has to literally drop tools and go, to assist someone in need on the water. “The support from employers is huge…if we can’t be allowed to leave [our workplace], there’s no rescue happening.”  

Matt enjoys the camaraderie and community spirit with the Hawkes Bay team. During the recent Napier floods, the team came together to help those who had lost homes or possessions. One Coastguard crew member lent his car for months to another whose own vehicle had been destroyed, and because many crew members are tradies each pitched in as they could to help rebuild.  

One particular rescue that stands out was when a 14 year-old boy and three of this mates got caught in rolling swell off Marine Parade, Napier city. While the beach along the city’s waterfront isn’t usually considered dangerous, with a little bit of swell “it turns into a washing machine” and becomes very treacherous. The boy and his mates were trapped in the surf, unable to swim their way out, and tiring fast.

Matt and three volunteers raced to the rescue vessel, launched and were on scene within minutes. Being Art Deco weekend in the historical township meant quite a crowd of people had gathered to watch the events play out, unable to help as the Coastguard vessel got into position. “We’re aboard a 12 metre, 12 ton rescue vessel with 1,000 horsepower on the back, and we were getting buckled around in there, Matt said.   

As the team threw a life buoy to the exhausted teen and pulled him out of the water, fatigued and cold, a cheer went up from the beach. “Everyone’s clapping and cheering,” Matt recalls. “It’s that sort of stuff that makes you really want to be in Coastguard. 

Kato Dentith, Coastguard Taranaki 

Kato Dentith began volunteering with Coastguard Taranaki in December 2017. After spending most of her young adult life on the water as a keen waka ama paddler, Kato developed a passion for boating safety, which lead her to joining Coastguard.

Realising there was a gap in safety knowledge at her club, Kato decided to take matters into her own hands. Joining Coastguard helped her gain a better understanding of health and safety and in turn Kato was able to influence and improve the safety culture at her club by sharing the knowledge she learnt from volunteering with her teammates.

“Waka ama has been my main sport since I was 13, so my main motivator to join Coastguard was to do my part to help improve the safety culture at my club.”

Kato has a keen interest in Health and Safety. Not only is she currently Coastguard Taranaki’s Health and Safety Coordinator, she is pursuing a career in this field and is currently completing a Diploma in Health and Safety.

Kato originally put her hand up for the role at the start of the year as a way to get more involved with the unit and to see if she could incorporate some of the key learnings from her day-job as a Utility Arborist into Coastguard.

As one of the youngest volunteers within her unit, Kato’s found holding this position extremely rewarding.

“Everyone at the unit has been super helpful and supportive of my role. Older volunteers want to train younger people up so they can run the unit in the future, so it’s been a great way to learn off my peers,” says Kato.

There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes from volunteering, and for Kato it’s the camaraderie, being a part of a lifesaving team and sharing her knowledge with others that keeps her coming back.

“It’s honestly the best thing to do, you get so much reward from doing it whether you’re on shore support, a radio operator or actually out on the boat, just joining your local unit you meet so many new people and make so many new friends. There are so many great feelings that come as a result of volunteering.”

Since joining Coastguard, Kato has gained a range of skills including mastering the art of multitasking, made lifelong friendships and been exposed to search and rescue operations that have really solidified the importance of Coastguard to her.

One incident hit particularly close to home for Kato. “There was a waka ama incident where a team were out paddling when their waka ama got into strife on a reef off the coast. They flipped and their waka broke into pieces, leaving the whole crew in the water,” recalls Kato.

“Luckily one of our crews from Coastguard Taranaki was out training that night, so they were able to get to the paddlers straight away and bring them to safety.”

Whilst Kato wasn’t personally involved in the rescue, she felt the effects of it given her strong link to waka ama.

Following the incident Kato and the Taranaki unit worked with local waka ama clubs and the Police to work out what everyone could do to rectify the situation and to decrease the likelihood of it happening again, by focusing on boating safety.



Ranui Bull, Coastguard Riverton

Ranui Bull comes from a line of seafarers and avid fishermen, all of whom have a lot of respect in the Foveaux Strait and Southland community. Ranui’s father was an experienced skipper and fisherman, his two younger brothers are commercial skippers, and Ranui himself has been part of the Coastguard community for over two decades, helping boaties stay safe on the water.

Unfortunately Ranui’s story with Coastguard begins with personal tragedy, and the desire to be part of the solution. Two of his close friends had borrowed a dinghy to go paua diving, when the boat capsized and the men tragically drowned. This was followed just a few short years later with his brother going missing at sea in Foveaux Strait – the treacherous passage of water between the bottom of the South Island and Stewart Island that the fierce winds of the Roaring Forties rip through, and which Ranui now patrols with Coastguard. 

Wanting to stop this kind of tragedy happening to others he joined Coastguard, and hasn’t looked back – having volunteered with the unit for 21 years and taking on almost every role available at some point. Currently a Coastguard Instructor and Skipper, Ranui has also been the training officer for the local Volunteer Fire Brigade for 26 years, only stepping down recently. With all the years of service to both the Fire Brigade and to Coastguard Riverton, its not hundreds of hours of service to his community but thousands.   

He likens the unit to playing in a rugby team, with the camaraderie and everyone pulling their weight to make it an enjoyable experience. Ranui especially enjoys having new people come into the unit, and watching them progress. “We’ve had people join the unit as shore crew not interested in getting out on the water, maybe they get sea-sick, but within a couple of years they absolutely love the boat”, he laughs.  

At every step of the way, Ranui is there to support trainees become operational. And in such a tight-knit community, there’s no shortage of people wanting to volunteer their time for Coastguard – in fact, there’s been a revolving waiting list for volunteers wanting to join the unit for at least as long as Ranui’s been there. “For some reason we do really well here.” 

As a truck driver with Pankhurst Sawmilling Ltd, Ranui couldn’t dedicate all this time to helping his community if it wasn’t for the support of his workplace who offer him paid time off to volunteer and to get away to Coastguard meetings around the country. “Every time the phone went off, doesn’t matter who it was for [Fire Service or Coastguard], I’d disappear for a few hours or even a whole day at a time, but they were really good about it,” he said. 

This support reflects that of the entire Riverton population: “Our community is fabulous, we couldn’t ask for more really.” 

One of his close Coastguard colleagues likens Ranui to Batman: “he’s the Batman of Riverton, whenever the siren goes for whatever reason Ranui will be there. He's a really nice guy who will be there to help anyone in need.” 

Outside of volunteering and work, Ranui is also an accomplished pilot and can sometimes be found surveying his patch of water from above. But he’s most likely to be found on the water: “if it’s fine enough to go flying, it’s fine enough to go fishing. 


Lisa Laufale, Coastguard Papakura

What inspired you to volunteer for Coastguard?

The great bunch of family-orientated people at Coastguard Papakura who value their fellow volunteers. Lisa began her volunteering with Coastguard nearly 11 years ago. With no real interest in the water, she was initially influenced to join Coastguard Papakura by her husband, Chris, a volunteer of 12 years. Knowing the unit needed volunteers with Class 3 Truck and Trailer Licenses to transport Papakura Rescue 1 from the unit base to the boat ramp, Chris knew Lisa would be a perfect addition to the unit.

Lisa is one of the unit’s truck drivers, secretary and a champion fundraiser. She keeps the cogs turning in the background by keeping on top of administration, accounts, funding applications, general compliance, BBQ’s and much more. Lisa is one of Papakura’s most reliable and loyal volunteers.

Do you have any recent incidents that spring to mind, that you’ve been involved in or are memorable to you?

In 2017 Coastguard Papakura was involved in a search for an eight-year-old girl and her father who failed to return home from a spot of fishing on the Manukau Harbour. After a 3-and-a-half-hour search Coastguard Papakura pulled the brave young girl to safety, but unfortunately her father was not found. The search took place on the water, in the air and on land, drawing on the skills of over 20 Coastguard volunteers on board four rescue vessels and in aircraft. Whilst this incident had a tragic outcome, witnessing the exceptional collaboration between Coastguard volunteers is something that has stayed with Lisa.

What is the most satisfying thing about volunteering for Coastguard?

Working as a team, taking time to do the training to carry out rescues, coming together to raise money for the unit through monthly sausage sizzles and other fundraising events.

What’s your day job and what do you like to do in your spare time?

Lisa is a self-proclaimed ‘desk jockey.” When she’s not driving the truck for Coastguard Papakura, Lisa works in Admin and Support in the I.T industry. Lisa has a green thumb and enjoys potting in the garden she and Chris got in order during lockdown.


Thanks to our life-saving partners:
  • Auckland Council
  • Northland Regional Council
  • Waikato Regional Council
  • Hutchwilco
  • Marine Deals
  • Tower
  • Kordia
  • Hyundai
  • Line7
  • Century Batteries
  • Half Moon Bay
  • NZCT
  • Lotteries Grants Board
  • Lion Foundation
  • Pub Charity